Agricultural scientists observe that apiculture — scientific rearing of honey bees — can contribute a tremendous amount in value to the economy of any nation that harnesses the potential in the sector.
According to them, honey is produced by bees; flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, known for their role in pollination to produce honey and beeswax that can be harvested in commercial quantity.
Similarly, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) notes that between 235 billion dollars and 577 billion dollars worth of annual global food production relies on direct contributions by pollinators such as bees, birds and bats.
It says further that the annual world beekeeping trade value stood at 450 billion dollars (N162 trillion).
Further to this statistics, it states that the African market share was at five per cent of the world annual production of honey with Ethiopia contributing 40,000 tonnes at 255,300,000 dollars (N91.9 billion) while Nigeria contributes about 15,000 tonnes worth N96, 025,000.
Experts in honey production then observe that Nigeria consumes more than 400,000 tonnes of honey annually and produces less than 40,000 tonnes which is 10 per cent of the consumption, leading to an import bill of more than two billion dollars.
They note further that although the production rate is low due to primitive methods of farming bees, farmers are gradually adopting the modern ways of beekeeping to increase production.
They also express optimism that with Nigeria’s bid and win to host the 6th ApiExpo Afrcia 2018 from Sept. 24 to Sept. 29, there will be the convergence of apicultural thought leaders, international experts, farmers, processors from around the globe to promote the benefits of bee farming and processing in Africa.
Identifying beekeeping as a potential, Chief Audu Ogbeh, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that the Federal Government would collaborate with the Afe Babalola University to support bee farmers and keepers in the purchase special types of woods for the production of bee hives.
Ogbeh explained that the expo would help to promote the potential of bee farming and the need to produce such to the international community and promote the sector.
“It is a bit embarrassing that Nigeria is listed very low among the nations participating in this industry.
“Embarrassing to a place not too difficult to explain, once we found oil and gas, we lost our memory for agriculture.
“Bees help us pollinate our crops, people rent bees across the continents now, bees are dying in large numbers in many countries like Western Europe and the United States.
“Scientists are trying to find out what is wrong, is it transmission by telephones, is it chemicals in the farms, or is it climate change issues.
“Will the same thing happen in Africa? If it does, how do we pollinate 75 per cent of our crops, how do we increase yield?
“I think that we need to show more services to the animals so they can give services to us.
“Don’t lose hope, together, we are coming back. We will support the bee farmers,’’ he said.
Mr Filippo Amato, the Head of the Trade and Economic Section of European Union (EU), said that no fewer than 10 countries in Africa were eligible to export honey to the EU.
He listed the countries to include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
Amato, therefore, urged Nigeria to join the list to boost the country’s economy.
“Being listed is not an easy process, it requires the effort, willingness and cooperation of several stakeholders both from the private and public sectors,’’ he explained.
Similarly, Mr Ernest Aubee, the Head of Agriculture Division, ECOWAS Commission, said the commission would partner with the Federal Government to ensure that the ApiExpo would be a success.
He commended the agricultural transformation of the Federal Government, noting that the commission would ensure the replication in ECOWAS member countries.
Mr Bosco Okeilo, the Chief Executive Officer, Apitrade Africa, said that the objective of the exposition was to foster economic drive, social mobilisation and political influence to move apiculture industry forward.
In his view, the Chairman of the ApiExpo Africa 2018 Organising Committee, Dr Dooshima Kwange, explained that the event would create international trade opportunities and foreign market access for the beekeeping industry.
Kwange noted that the expo would stimulate refined processes for a sustainable growth through seamless collaboration between the public and private sector players to create employment and reduce rural-urban movement.
She said that the objective of the event was to increase food security through reduction of hunger-related malnutrition to meet the 2030 zero-hunger FAO’s target and maintain eco-diversity balance through mitigation of global warming.
Kwange explained that the exposition with the theme “Beekeeping Industry for Sustainable Development, Wealth Creation and Economic Diversification’’, was expected to bring the country’s bee industry goods, services, and research to global relevance and attain international recognition leading to an improved national image.
Dr. Chinyere Eneh, the Secretary of the ApiExpo Committee, said that the event was a continental trade expo organized by ApiTrade, a pan-African not-for-profit organization with the headquarters in Uganda that works in all 55 African Union member states.
Eneh said that the event would help in the improvement of the sector and help in actualizing the Sustainable Development Goals.
She said that all Africa countries, as well as some European and Asian countries, had indicated interest to participate in the exposition.
In her opinion, Mrs. Obianuju Okpo, the National President of Women in Beekeeping, said that bee farming could create wealth, employment, generate revenue for the government, create raw materials for industries and increase crops yields by 225 percent.
According to her, bees can produce honey, beeswax, bee venom, royal jelly, propolis, bee bread and pollen which could be used for apitherapy in the pharmaceutical industry.
She observed that that bee-farming “is made up different segments which involve harvesting, research, processing, pollination, extension services, technology development, among others’’.
Highlighting the benefits of bee products, Mrs. Ngozi Ibe, the Head, Manufactures Unit, Product Development Department of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, said that unlike other forms of agriculture, few resources were needed for bee-farming and land ownership was not essential in the venture.
Ibe listed the different types of bees to include the queen, worker bees and the drones, explaining that bee venom had been proved to be anti-cancer, anti-aging properties and for bone health.
Stakeholders in agriculture, therefore, note that there is no doubt that the 2018 Africa ApiExpo would expose the country’s apiculture industry to greater economic benefits in future.